The US Army’s newest aerial toy is a little different than the rest of its drone brethren. Instead of providing overhead video and maybe shooting off a missile, AeroVironment’s Switchblade UAV is the missile. Portable, kamikaze death from above.
Each Switchblade pops out of a small-ish tube, guided by a joystick-connected goggles. Find your target, arm the drone, and crash it on purpose at high, explosiony speed. Instant missile. The Switchblade can also be used for recon-only, if a unit needs sudden aerial eyeballs — but having the ability to pull a guided missile out of nowhere is a serious boon to anyone in a pinned down position like the one above. Or anyone who just needs to blow something up on the cheap.
Even though they’re disposable, they’re likely vastly less expensive than, say, a Predator drone assault. MSNBC reports the Army’s contract for the drones cost only $US4.9 million for a batch — that’s a little over what each Predator costs. It’s still more expensive than shooting someone in the head, but handing these things out liberally would make soldiers smarter and more dangerous — though it certainly adds to the videogame-ification of warfare. [MSNBC via DefenseTech]